Written in April 2010, this is one of the most popular reads on Northern Insights. I want to keep it at the top for a while longer because it deals with many issues that are in play right now. Did Premier Campbell restore any faith by his October 27 speech? Not with anyone who has been paying attention.
During the Liberal years, Gordon Campbell remade British Columbia. While the provincial economy grew, the fortunes of ordinary people declined, for the first extended period ever. Beneficiaries of change had demanded redistribution of wealth to the disadvantage of all but a few. The end result was not incidental or accidental.
For success, the Liberals needed heroes and villains. That required a massive long-term campaign, involving information and disinformation. It was organized more easily than most citizens would expect and paid for by the public purse.
Media cooperated readily to carry messages. With ownership by sympathetic plutocrats, these dependable friends gained from government advertising campaigns. PAB brought together major elements of the information enterprise by centralization of government communications. With considerable funding, hundreds of servants loyal to the Premier shaped and filtered messages.
"Think tank" Fraser Institute, financed by large industry, particularly the energy and private medicine sectors, spends over a million dollars a month on its campaign against the public sector. Libertarians who aim to defund government, resource companies that abhor royalties and regulations, corporations lobbying for privatized healthcare and large tax resisters develop Fraser Institute philosophies.
Message making began even before the 2001 election. Creating villains was the first act. A few old guard political opponents, Stupich and Williams, come to mind as easy targets. Destroying Harcourt and Clark took longer because they were essentially good people, as lives after politics demonstrated. Clark, for example, flourished as a Jim Pattison Enterprises executive and people do not survive in that empire if they are dull or corrupt. That did not stop media from portraying him as a cheat because a friend helped him make home improvements.
RCMP even arranged for TV news cameras to be present for a search of Premier Clark's east Vancouver home. It may be significant that the officer in charge of the investigation once said, “Smear campaigns are our specialty” and Campbell had invited him to stand as a Liberal candidate with possibility of joining the Cabinet.
Media did not show the man that neighbors knew, the father of a young family who stood easily in a crowd of fellow parents watching their kids play minor hockey. Ultimately, a Supreme Court Judge tossed the politically motivated charges.
Labor unions were equally important targets. British Columbia prosperity had been based on its high wage economy. Communities, including Powell River where I did high school, lived happily, largely in middle class egalitarianism. We joked about "two boats in every driveway."
For decades, provincially controlled resource companies and unions survived with times of creative tension but the working classes were empowered, unlike the days when company towns exercised centralized control of jobs, housing, merchandising and every other life element. Workers could be summarily discharged and run out of town - and they were - for offending a manager or being suspected of socialist sympathy.
Education, healthcare, roads and ferry services, main enterprises of government, were targeted for intensive mistreatment. Part of the strategy was to attack the status of employees, accuse them of radicalism, inefficiency and greed. The object of government HR policy was not good labor-management relations; it was to create divides and disruptions. Old contracts were revoked, new ones imposed. Privatization was the aim, even if the contractors were disreputable dodgers headquartered in havens far removed from regulation and taxation.
Campbell's political operatives spread through the public sector, replacing professional managers with agents of the downtown Politburo. Our fine paramedic service has been, and is, subject to intensive disrespect to ready it for privatization. Lee Doney is there to ensure that happens according to plan.
Fast aluminum ferries were taken out of service to shame the NDP. Ships that could have been made serviceable were given away to Liberal supporters for less even than scrap value. After keeping them on public display in the Vancouver harbor, the company sold the ships for service to the UAE, for an undisclosed price with a gain known to be substantial. Of course, the public that paid to build these ships gets no disposal detail.
A long history of inexpensive clean power was targeted for elimination. Premier WAC Bennett said that low cost power would be the foundation for job development as long as the resource was used at home, not exported south to run factories of the USA. Gordon Campbell turned that policy on its head. Now, BC Hydro is obliged to purchase high cost interruptible power so they can dump it in the export market at a loss.
BC gains hugely now from low cost "heritage" generation sites. Without publicly owned projects, there will be no new ones because private facilities will demand "world prices" in subsequent contract terms. Imagine if private companies had built the Peace and Columbia River dams in the sixties. The utility would triple today's electricity prices.
Even worse, BC Hydro intends to allow private producers to sell their own non-firm-power as firm-power by lending from BC Hydro's predictable resource, when private supply runs low. So irregular power production will be topped up from public sources while the price premium stays in private hands. At times of high demand and high prices, BC Hydro power will be given to the privates to sell. When export demand and prices are low, BC Hydro will take back from the privates. We will be told it was merely a balanced commodity trade, one kwh traded for another kwh; balanced trade sounds so innocuous. This is planned fraud, shielded from public view by government imposed secrecy. The beneficiaries are common to other frauds.
Commuters in the working class suburbs of Pitt Meadows and Langley pay tolls to cross the Fraser River while luxury SUVs head for the ski slopes of Whistler on the $600 million untolled highway. By the way, if you want evidence that Canwest Global newspapers are message carriers for the Liberal government, examine this puffery in the Vancouver Sun. (Writer's note: Laila Yuile discovered that taxpayers are paying shadow tolls to to the Sea to Sky Highway private operator (S2S Transportation Group) for all vehicles driving the roadway.)
We have accumulated so much indirect and circumstantial evidence of corruption that, despite frenetic efforts of Liberal defenders, a reasonable person can draw only one conclusion. The facts are not merely consistent with guilt but inconsistent with innocence.
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